After an October week from hell — when allegations against Harvey Weinstein first began to unravel, Donald Trump threatened to take aid away from Puerto Rico, women boycotted Twitter, and historic wildfires destroyed California — I splurged on a large Blue Raspberry Icee and sat alone in a 12:15 p.m. Saturday showing of Marshall. I turned my phone all the way off, and over the course of the next two hours I ugly cried in the dark.
Afterwards, I drove to a bookstore and spent $82.47. I went home, applied a face mask and collapsed onto my bed, escaping into the pages of one of my new books for hours. I met my friend for dinner, cherished every single bite of a cheeseburger, rushed back to my pillow, and fell asleep before watching re-runs of The Mindy Project.
This was my own personal form of self-care.
For so many, self-care has been the unsung savior of 2017. You’ve probably heard the term thrown around daily, but learning exactly what it means and why it’s so essential will help to better practice it in the new year.
Am I doing this thing right?
Self-care methods — personalized rituals that allow people to take a step back from this messy world to prioritize their well-being and preserve their mental health — differ for each individual and in each scenario, so there’s really no right or wrong.
For Hillary Clinton self-care could mean anything from frantic closet cleaning, long walks in the woods, and playing with her dogs, to yoga or sitting down to enjoy a glass of wine. For Michael Phelps, who’s conquered the pressures of Olympic competition but has struggled with depression and anxiety over the years, it’s working out or heading to the golf course. The only constant is that methods of self-care must benefit and focus on you.
“A lot of times people will say ‘I spend time with my kids,’ which is great and meaningful but that’s still taking care of somebody else,” said Monnica Williams, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and associate professor at University of Connecticut’s Department of Psychological Sciences. “When you self-care it’s really about you recharging.”
Self-care isn’t selfish
Some people abstain from self-care for fear that their behavior would come across as selfish. They simply can’t resist the urge to put other people first.
According to a 2017 “Women’s Wellness Report” from Everyday Health, which studied 3,000 women from ages 25 to 65 in the U.S., 76 percent of women said they were were more likely to put their own personal needs after someone else’s. However, more than half of the participants said that taking time for themselves was the greatest factor in achieving wellness. (Disclosure: Mashable and Everyday Health are owned by the same company, Ziff Davis.)
“You can’t be the best you in any other contexts if you’re not taking care of yourself.”
“It’s essential for your mental health and your physical health,” Williams said, noting that self-care is anything but selfish. “You can’t be the best you in any other contexts if you’re not taking care of yourself.”
“I heard someone say that it’s like putting on your own oxygen mask in an airplane emergency before putting one on a child,” added Crystal Park, another professor at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Psychological Sciences.
“The healthier and more resilient we are, the more effective we can be in our lives.”
Heading into 2018 with some solid self-care guidelines will help you better manage your stress and survive whatever challenges are in store, so here are a few to keep in mind.
Don’t be afraid to take a mental health day
Your mental health is important, but it’s also extremely easy to ignore. When your job gets too overwhelming or events in your personal life prevent or distract you from doing your best work in the office it’s time to take a step back.
For inspiration, look no further than one of 2017’s viral personal tales: the story of Olark CEO Ben Congleton advocating for his employee after learning she’d taken time off for mental health reasons.
After Congleton’s understanding email sparked discussion about mental health in the workplace, he wrote a post on Medium further emphasizing the need to normalize it.
When you are at work, take additional steps to make your environment a place of comfort. Personalize your desk with a plant, a framed photo of something that makes you smile, or set the mood with a tiny lamp.
And every so often, book a conference room for lunch with your coworkers to share pizza and a cake you buy for the sole reason of craving cake. Work will still be there when your lunch break ends, but taking time to clear your head is crucial.
Give social media and screens a rest
Social media usage often starts with the intention of getting caught up on current events and quickly spirals into a black hole of negativity.
“So many people are plugged in and instantly alerted to everything that is happening in the news in ways that weren’t possible 10 years ago,” said Dr. Carolyn Mazure, director of Women’s Health Research at Yale.
Here are a few ways to make online communities safer spaces for you:
Follow encouraging accounts like ‘s, who promotes her self-care-themed Etsy store.
Unfollow people on Facebook. (This helps you to remain friends with them but hides their posts from your timeline.)
Turn off push notifications.
Use Twitter’s mute feature to shield yourself from triggering words.
Transform your cell phone into a self-care hub
While it’s healthy to disconnect from technology every so often, when you do have your phone by your side these tips can help make the experience more enjoyable.
Make use of your Do Not Disturb function.
Free up some storage space by parting with old text messages you have no intention of ever revisiting, deleting unused apps and contacts, and loading all photos and videos onto your laptop so you’re left with an empty album.
Create empowering or soothing playlists so you can easily listen to mood-lifting music on-the-go.
Treat Yo Self, but treat others, too
No matter how small, make a daily attempt to treat yourself to an experience or a purchase that’ll brighten your mood.
Get a pedicure or massage, take a hot bath, go for a walk around the block, go out with friends, or cancel plans to stay in on a Friday night to recharge and binge-watch mindless television, if that’s what you need.
And while being good to oneself is key, Park noted “balance is important” in self-care, and making an effort to give back to others often helps people feel better. Consider volunteering, or clean out your closets and drawers to donate unwanted items to charity.
Put positivity on display
One form of self-care can be as simple as not being so hard on yourself all the time. It sounds simple, but it can be a serious challenge at times. Visual reminders can help.
When in doubt, turn to this handy self-care printable, titled “Everything is Awful and I’m Not Okay.” The checklist presents 16 questions for you to answer and serves as a helpful reminder to stay hydrated, shower, participate in physical activity, and be kind to yourself.
Keep a copy of the printout in your bag for comfort or hang it somewhere you know you’ll see it. (Mashable HQ has one on the wall of the women’s restroom.)
Affirmations are another great way to be kind to yourself and can serve as help. Glancing at inspirational quotes, uplifting doodles, or a few words of positivity can lift your spirits. The Mashable women’s restroom also has a few on display. (Very good restroom.)
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Though the term self-care sounds like an isolated practice, it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re someone who struggles to commit to individual self-care routines, or simply takes enjoyment from the company of others, spending time with and opening up to a friend, loved one, therapist, or even reaching out to the Crisis Text Line could be extremely beneficial.
What happens when you text us? : A Twitter Thread Guide to Crisis Text Line
Jump in with questions at any time!
— Crisis Text Line (@CrisisTextLine) February 1, 2017
Just know that you’re not alone in your stress and professionals are out there to help.
“Certainly, if possible, try to see a stressful situation as an opportunity to grow, and consider the power of reorienting how you confront a stressful situation when it arrives,” Mazure said.
“Instead of thinking, ‘Oh no, not again,’ perhaps a good self-care perspective might be, ‘I’ve seen stress before. I’ve got this.'”
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Here is a list of international resources.